Mary Couzens of EXTRA! EXTRA!

Between Worlds at the Union Theatre

Between Worlds lingers on in your consciousness, long after you've left the theatre, despite its deceptively mundane opening scene.

Between Worlds at the Union Theatre
Photograph by Philip Gammon

A self-assured thirty-something man steps out of a lift, into what appears to be a nondescript hotel lobby. However, the fact that he immediately begins to wonder where is he inspires curiosity. Does he have amnesia? Or is he just between worlds?

Colin remembers driving down the road, but he doesn't recall checking into this hotel. And he doesn't know where it is. The fellow behind the desk in the white coat has nothing to say. So it's up to the other people who drift in and out of the waiting room to fill him in.

As Colin, Anthony Wolfe enables the audience to sway with his varying moods, from impenetrable cynicism through out and out joy, tinged with ample measures of fated irony. Lydia Watkins is as comforting as candlelight in the dark as Laura, glowing like a firefly amidst the dusk of this netherworld. In a poignant turn of events, this unusual young woman finds time spent in the twilight world anything but down. Her sunny manner lightens the atmosphere so much, that it heightens the will to live in her fellow travellers. However, every barrel contains at least one rotten apple, and actor Alan Buckman does a superlative job with his plumy role as an unidentified corporate chairman, who acts as though he has the divine right to lord it over people. Some of his more caustic remarks seemed to be aimed at the audience, where he may have given similarly inclined individuals cause to squirm.

The doctor in the house is Maria Bates, who has no trouble spotting brown-nosing from miles away. However, her air of maternal concern, cloaked in authority never falters. Carole Coyne provides comic, and wistful moments as an aging cleaning fanatic who's always been unlucky in love. Her simplistic, philosophical justifications for her long-term, self-deprecating ways have often made the grass on the other side of the fence seem much greener than it actually was. Siobhan Campbell and Tyrone Yansen lend an ethereal aspect to the proceedings as a pair of silent, wingless guides in hospital orderly white.

However, despite all of the memorable moments provided by the aforementioned talented actors, Matthew Lyne steals the spotlight more often than not, as Magus, the middle aged spiritualist, who suspects that he's only kidding himself. Lyne infuses his role with humour and warmth far beyond words. And it's refreshing to hear an actor actually speak with a real London accent, instead of listening to someone who doesn't normally speak that way, attempting to. The last time I had that uncommon experience was at the Olivier Awards a few years back, when Martine McCutcheon accepted her Best Actress award for her 'as written' (by George Bernard Shaw) portrayal of Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady, amidst subtle booing from some of the more silver tongued thespians in the stalls.

Melmoth's production of Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt's brilliant, insightful, play has just about everything an intelligent theatre-goer could hope for: drama, humour, romance, suspense, as well as some challenging questions to ponder afterwards. Add an ambivalent ending that sets off further speculation, imaginative directing by Mark Bullock and his assistant, Anton Krause, and a great deal of heart to the mix, and you have all the right ingredients for a very enjoyable evening of theatre.

• Until 30 September at the Union Theatre; listings information

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